It stopped, even though I didn’t think it would. I even double backed when I looked over my shoulder.
The back doors of the TTC streetcar swung open, a woman exited and that was my chance, chance to skip paying the $3 fee to ride, and I jumped on, with not even the slightest bit of inconspicuousness and tried to turn away from the glaring driver beaming at me in the mirror.
“Hey backpacker, you wanna come pay the fee?” The pudgy moustached man said in his most authoritative voice.
“Not really” I said walking towards him slowly. I only said it because I knew I would end up paying for it, only trying to bargain my way out of it, duh, that’s how I roll. So anyways I walk up to him, realized hes not at all gonna give two shits as to anything I'm about to say. Knowing this, and that I'm going to face it 74834658 times all day today, tomorrow, the next day and the next. Next week, next month next February 4, two thousand eleven, I deal with being told no, and do what I have to if I want to avoid serious trouble.
He tells me ‘everyone has to pay, you think you don’t? ‘No, I only think I can try’ , as I slip exactly one third of my change. Much needed change. I grabbed my transfer and sat down. Bummer, but get used to it, cause it’s a comin’. All the friggen time. See this. Breakdown/synopsis of the trip and sustainability.
I pulled out good ol’ Ross Kemp on Gangs LINK (this is what I'm reading about right now, and its so twisted, I'm often putting the book down and taking a deep breath, trying to fathom whats happening) and continued reading on. To be honest I was feeling pretty weird, as I had just left someone I cared a lot for, and it was a difficult morning. Aside from the dreams of this trip, the only stability in my life left that morning.
Before I could jump onto the highway I had to go down to the Eaton Centre and grab a battery for my DV camera I had put on hold a few days earlier. Friggen Sony and its friggen overpriced crap. Although it was only $60(from the ‘open’ box in the back, the new ones went for $99+tax) it was $60 from my already extremely scarce funds. I bit my tongue when he said the price, and I think he had to pry the bill from my white knuckles. Well I needed that battery, so I had no choice.
Next stop was a currency exchange, as I needed some US dollars to get across the border. I only bought $100, and got 5 crisp twenties. Canadian money is so much cooler.
Now I could make my way north to the hwy 401, and try to get a ride to Niagara Falls. It was mid afternoon, around 330ish, and I had plenty of time. Or so I thought. I asked the advice of a few people along the way, and each person told me different directions as to taking the subway to the closest highway spot. I used my discretion when asking people, I picked people I thought would know, and have maybe travelled alone once or twice. The two different men with the MEC backpacks(usually the most receptive to a backpacker), the dreadlocked dude knitting in the subway station, the TTC attendant, and a group of young professionals on a smoke break. All told me different ways, and I would tell them the last directions I received and was following, and they would say ‘No, do this’. After convincing me their way was the most efficient, I followed. After getting on and off the subway, walking their suggested route, and finding it has led me farther than I was originally, I got frustrated. I was losing precious daylight and time, as it was nearing 5 o’clock. I was stopped by a photographer on a little personal project taking photos of people looking into a peculiar mirror on the street. He said I was very interesting looking, and promised to email me the results. He did, I got them this morning, here they are. LINK and again. I was walking to Rosedale station to get to Sheppard, where I would hitch out. That’s where I ran into Larry on the subway. Larry offered his seat, and although I declined his generous gesture, his MEC (mtn equipment co-op) appearance led me to ask him for directions. Turns out hes also a journalist and was in town from NIAGARA!-as if- on a seminar teaching high school kids how to write. He told me he wanted to help me out, and once he heard my story and plans, gave me his address and phone number in Niagara Falls. He told me to give him a call and he’ll meet me, and I am more than welcome to stay at his place for the night, his wife will cook me a nice dinner. It was such a great feeling after spending the past few hours agonizingly walking around, talking into my handheld camera. Had he not been tied up for the night and staying in a hotel, he would have driven back that evening. Well now I have a place to stay, and someone to get some expert advice from.
His advice to ride the subway as far west as possible; Kipling stn, and walk to the highway from there wasn’t looking to possible, as darkness had fallen, and my chances of hitching in the dark out of Toronto were about as likely as winning the lottery. More like winning the lottery underage without buying a ticket. When I got to Kipling, I was tired and hungry; I had not yet eaten that day. It was dark, and I was still in city limits. Had to find shelter and food. I knew I could A) scrounge around local hotels and beg for a room, barter and try to find some food for the evening…or B) Set up a camp somewhere, somewhere safe with all my crap(it wasn’t at all cold for dark fall, and I knew Id be toasty) or C) opt out, and call my friend I knew lived close by, 4 train stops in the other direction. Not wanting to put my tactics into play (the Torontonians could smell that I wasn’t new to town that day) I decided one last night with a familiar face and a worry free evening. I gave him a ring, and made my way to his place. I met a very interesting Columbian man with very interesting views on life. He was also a safety advisor on his way to the hospital to have the cut on his finger from cooking looked after. (oh the irony).Just before meeting with my buddy, I stopped by a little mama-papa pizza shoppe and proposed that I would be willing to help them clean up for the evening, along with my massive bags and traveller image,and my attempt at a warm smile(yea that’s right, I said it) in exchange for a free slice. They man grinned, and said ‘no worry, for you, I gibb you slice’. I was very hungry and very happy. King Slice on Dundas West, many thanks, as you fed me for the evening without hesitation. I walked a few blocks and met with my friend, and we went up to his mates’ apt and hung out. It was nice to finally pull the packs off and not have to keep my eyes on them. What was better was the comfy couch to plunk my bony ass into, and watch Billy Madison on the big screen. Awww yea. “Schtop looking at me Schwann”. After smoking a nerve calming joint, (my aortic valve was still in turmoil from leaving half of it at the little apt on College St) it was exactly what I needed and we went to my friends house, and I plopped down on his couch and quickly passed out. Not only was I exhausted, it was the wee hours of the morning. It was the first emotional roller coaster day, the first of thousands to come.